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    32nd Annual Memorial Day | Sunday Ride for Freedom with Rolling Thunder

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    By Michael Hernandez

    Oxnard High School Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard

    OXNARD—The Channel Islands Republican Women Federated feted five members of the Rolling Thunder California chapter at their Wednesday monthly meeting at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club.

    The Washington D.C. 32nd annual Ride for Freedom will feature between 500,000-700,000 Rolling Thunder members riding in a parade of motorcycles from the Pentagon across the Memorial Bridge to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  This year marks the last Ride for Freedom with 2020 Memorial Weekend featuring demonstrations in individual states by the 90 Rolling Thunder chapters.

    Rolling Thunder is an advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIA) service members of all U.S. wars.  The group’s first demonstration in Washington was in 1988 on the Sunday before Memorial Day and featured 2,500 motorcycles with 45,000 motorcyclists riding the following year.  The group incorporated in 1995 as a 501 (c) (4) non-profit and Rolling Thunder Charities was incorporated in 2007 as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit. 

    The weekend of Rolling Thunder events began Friday at 5 p.m. with a “Blessing of the Bikes” at the Washington National Cathedral followed by a 9 p.m. candelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  The main event on Saturday is a wreath presentation at the U.S. Navy Memorial at 11 a.m.  Rolling Thunder members begin arriving at the Pentagon Parking Lot at 7 a.m. Sunday and begin their ride to Washington D.C. at 12 noon with speakers program starting at 1:30 p.m. and a musical tribute at 3 p.m.  The arrival of motorcyles coming across the Memorial Bridge gave the group its name:  Rolling Thunder.  To see video of a previous Ride for Freedom see the website at:

    Honor Wall | A display of club members’ family members who served or are serving in our military today.

    Rolling Thunder co-founders (Vietnam veteran) Corporal Ray Manzo (United States Marine Corps) and Army Sgt. Artie Muller (executive director) focus Rolling Thunder on the still unaccounted for 86,521 (which include:  4,420 from World War I; 72,719 from World War II; 7,661 from the Korean War; 1,589 from the Vietnam War; 126 from the Cold War; and 6 from Iraq and other conflicts).  The motto for Rolling Thunder is:  “We shall not forget.”

    “The goal of Rolling Thunder is to leave no man behind,” said Rolling Thunder California 1 President Joe Galante.  “The worse thing that can happen to a warrior is to be forgotten.  I would like to thank you for helping veterans.  God bless our veterans.  God bless this great country.”

    “We are dedicated to helping those who are serving, have served and the families left behind of those members in the armed forces who have been wounded, missing, or killed in action. For more information on the Rolling Thunder California 1 chapter email:  [email protected].

    Also featured at the Channel Islands Republican Women Federated meeting was a POW-MIA Table setting by the Oxnard High School Air Force Jr. ROTC with Color Guard Commander and Captain Alan Ayala Zapien, Airman Anthony Lemus, Airman Edwin Balam and Airman Michael Moore.

    Captain Zapien explained the table with the empty chair “the place of honor” set for the one “missing” (the POW or MIA) who we call “brother so we remember him.”  He said:  “The table set for one, is small and symbolizes one prisoner alone against his oppressors.  The table cloth is white and represents the purity of his intentions, or call to arms.  The single red rose marks his missing.  The lit candle is to remember his spirit.  Remember.”

    Mike Garcia

    For more information on the Oxnard High School Air Force Jr. ROTC contact Lt. Col. Abraham Quinteros, (Ret.) by email at [email protected] or call (805) 385-2787.

    The Channel Islands Republican Women Federated also collects postage stamps (used and unused) for the Veteran’s Stamp & Coin Club to be sent to the Veterans Administration Center (135) in Tucson, Arizona.  Attendees were also asked to sign birthday cards to be sent to President Donald Trump for his birthday on June 14 (Flag Day).

    The invocation was given by Club Chaplain Joyce Sihler (Gold Star family) who also organizes the postage stamps for veterans.  The Pledge of Allegiance was given by Mike Garcia, a U.S. Navy veteran of 20 years (who flew 30 combat missions as a Super Hornet strike fighter pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom over Baghdad, Fallujah, and Tikrit) and a Republican candidate from Santa Clarita running against Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-25th, Agua Dulce).

    Program Chair was Joan Lopez-Fauset.  Presiding over the Channel Islands Republican Women Federated is Deborah Baber (Savalla).  The next meeting is a luncheon (11:30 a.m.) to be held Wednesday, June 26 (the fourth Wednesday of the month) at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club, 2600 S. Harbor Drive, Oxnard, CA 93035.  For more information contact:  [email protected].


    Photo credits: Michael Hernandez (Except of Mike Garcia)

    Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service, founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor.  He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher.   Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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